For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.—The answer sent was that the thing was not true, and that the report itself did not exist. The reflection in Nehemiah’s journal was that they sought to make him afraid. Quoting this, he adds the prayer that he recorded when he wrote it. It is one of those sudden, interjectional petitions which abound in the narrative, and is all the more remarkable from the absence of the words “O God,” which are here inserted.Nehemiah 6:9. For they all made us afraid — That is, they endeavoured to do so, and actually did terrify some persons. Now, therefore, O God, strengthen my hands — It is a great relief to good people, that in all their straits and difficulties they can have recourse to God, and by faith and prayer derive from him grace to silence their fears and strengthen their hands, while their enemies are endeavouring to fill them with fears and to weaken their hands. And this prayer of Nehemiah is particularly suitable when we are entering on any particular services or conflicts in our Christian warfare, and especially need to have our hands strengthened.They all made us afraid, i.e. they endeavoured to do so, and actually did terrify some persons.
their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done; this they hoped would be the effect of those reports sent to them:
now, therefore, O God, strengthen my hands; and let them not have what they will, and hope for; according to Aben Ezra, these words are directed to Sanballat, that if he was a friend, as he pretended, that instead of weakening, he would strengthen his hands by a sincere reconciliation; so Vatablus; but they are an address to God, such short ejaculations being usual with Nehemiah.For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)9. For they all made us afraid] R.V. For they all would have made us afraid. The participle in the original does not convey more than that the attempt was made. It does not assert, as the A.V. rendering, that the attempt succeeded. By ‘they all’ Nehemiah refers to the enemies mentioned in Nehemiah 6:1. The present verse is his comment upon the whole episode.
saying] i.e. amongst themselves and in their own minds.
Their hands shall be weakened] For this expression cf. Job 4:3; Isaiah 35:3; Jeremiah 38:4; 2 Chronicles 15:7. Cf. ‘fearful hearts and faint hands’ (Sir 2:12); ‘hands that hang down’ (Hebrews 12:12).
Now therefore, O God, strengthen, &c.] R.V. But now, O God, strengthen. Marg. ‘Or, I will strengthen my hands’. The adversative ‘but’ is required, since the clause is Nehemiah’s reply to his enemies’ machinations, which are summarized in the previous sentence. The construction in the Hebrew creates a difficulty in the translation. The words ‘O God’ are not in the original: the verb ‘strengthen’ may either be the imperative or the infinitive.
(i) The A.V. and R.V. and the majority of commentators accept the view that the verb is in the imperative, and regard the words as a prayerful soliloquy with which Nehemiah closes his description of this scene. To this rendering it is an objection (1) that the name of the Deity must be supplied in order to make the words intelligible; (2) that even for an interjectional prayer the language is abrupt; (3) that the substance as well as the form of the sentence differs from the interjectional prayers in Nehemiah 5:19, Nehemiah 6:14.
(ii) If the verb be in the infin., the words express Nehemiah’s resolution in the face of his difficulties, ‘I will strengthen my hands.’ There would be no difficulty presented by such a construction if either the infinitive had been preceded by a verb in a finite form, or the subject of the verb had been expressed. But as both those conditions are lacking, the infinitival construction is certainly extremely harsh and unusual. It is strange to find ‘a note added, in the form of a soliloquy, to a description of events which had happened at least 12 years before the final publication of these memoirs.’
Somewhat in favour of the latter view is the evidence of the Gr. and Latin versions, which give, ‘And I strengthened my hands.’ LXX. καὶ νῦν ἐκραταίωσα τὰς χεῖράς μου. Vulg. ‘quam ob causam magis confortavi manus meas,’ and ‘But I will strengthen my hands,’ Syr. and Arab. It may be contended that the Versions have merely aimed at giving the most probable sense, without facing the grammatical difficulty; and that, if so, their evidence is of little value. On the other hand their unanimity possibly indicates a difference of text at any early time. So far as they only record a traditional interpretation, they are opposed to the view that the words are a prayer. On the whole the rendering of the R.V. margin seems preferable. It is a harsh construction, but with a simple meaning. The explanation of a prayer escapes the difficulty of construction, but creates a greater objection in the ellipse of the Sacred Name. Among the older explanations of this clause there is the very strange one which suggested that Nehemiah’s words are addressed to Sanballat, whom he invites to strengthen his hands instead of weakening them in the task of completing the walls. For the phrase ‘strengthen my hands,’ cf. 1 Samuel 23:16, ‘strengthened his hands in God.’Verse 9. - They all made us afraid. Rather, "sought to affright us." Their attempts did not succeed. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands. "O God" is not in the original; whence some critics do not see in the words used a prayer, but only a statement - "But I now strengthened my hands" (so the Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic versions). This meaning, however, cannot be obtained from the present text.
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